KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With a gritty performance in the national semifinal, the Sabercats have created the opportunity to capture the program's first-ever NCCAA DII national championship.
- Result: #1 Maranatha 2-1 #4 Toccoa Falls
- Venue: Austin-Tindall Sports Complex
- Location: Kissimmee, Fla.
- Event: NCCAA DII National Tournament
- Attendance: 83
- Record: MBU (5-5-1), TFC (2-9-0)
This one had a nervy opening, as both teams were well aware of the significance of the occasion. Just five minutes in, disaster almost struck for the Sabercats when the Screaming Eagles earned a penalty kick. If there was ever a reason to worry, this was it.
But rising to the occasion was Trisha Wright, who got down quickly to her left to deny the attempt and negate the Screaming Eagles' resolve to get out ahead. The Sabercats would ride the momentum of Wright's big save, creating pressure at the other end of the field. Just eight minutes later, Moses found space behind Randall's back line, set herself up for a shot inside the box, and finished her opportunity with aplomb into the bottom-left corner. The Sabercats had the opening goal of the tournament, and the Screaming Eagles were silenced.
Moses' goal was both an energizer and a tranquilizer, as the Sabercats settled into a rhythm and kept the ball on the Screaming Eagles' half for the next 20 minutes. But against the run of play, TFC's Mabel Kerchmar clipped a sot from 25 yards that looped through the breeze and into the upper corner.
Going into halftime, the game was tied at one.
Right away in the second half, the Sabercats looked like they would eventually win the game. Hannah Evans seemed to be everywhere at once defensively, as she shut down some of Toccoa Falls' most creative midfield players. Evans' defensive work helped shift the momentum, and after Alexis Sponable just missed a chance at the other end, the decisive moment of the match came.
As anyone could've guessed, it was Sponable that scored the game-winner. After collecting the ball at the left corner of the box, Sponable cut into the middle before firing low and hard to the bottom-left corner. The senior had made her mark, and the Sabercats had the lead they were chasing.
From there until the end of the game, the Sabercats had to rely on Wright more times than they would've liked. The senior made three saves in the final 15 minutes to seal the win.
The scariest moment came in the 85th minute, when Toccoa Falls earned a free kick just 20 yards away from the Sabercats' goal - prime shooting territory. But Wright was perfectly placed, collecting the shot to silence their hopes at victory.
At the end of 90 minutes, the Sabercats had fought through the nerves and Toccoa Falls, punching their ticket to the 2020 NCCAA DII National Championship.
MBU Starters: 0- Wright, 2- Willette, 6- Montgomery, 7- Evans (C), 8- Bishop, 13- Bagin (C), 14- Sponable (C), 15- Massey, 17- Moses, 19- Steuerwald, 20- Hassenplug
"I don't really know what to say or think," said Alexis Sponable after the game. "It was just a great team effort all around - we really wanted it. Like I said yesterday, we needed to be determined to win the game and we were very determined. We created a lot of chances and thankfully we put two in the net."
- Shot count: Maranatha 15-10 Toccoa Falls
- Moses: 7th goal this season
- Sponable: 11th goal of the season; 58th career goal
- Wright: 8 saves in the win
- Last time: Toccoa Falls won 2-1 at Nationals in 2009
- Series: Maranatha now leads the all-time series 1-1-0
- Toccoa Falls won the 2020 NCCAA DII South Region Tournament
- Toccoa Falls' last appearance at Nationals was in 2010
The Sabercats will compete with #3 Randall University for the NCCAA DII national title at 3:00 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. Find details at mbusabercats.com.